Trust (Part 1) Starting with Trust

How does someone earn your trust? That question carries a lot of dangerous assumptions.

Trust is all around us. It’s at any restaurant where we eat before paying. It’s the basis for companies offering loans regardless of credit. It’s with us when we drive through a green light without stopping; we trust no one will run the red light. Society is built upon trust between strangers, yet when asked how someone earns our trust, what do we say?

How does someone earn your trust?

There are a few models of trust that tend to get cited when answering this question. There is older literature that describes trust as requiring cooperation, confidence and predictability. More recently, Stephen Covey’s book, Speed of Trust, describes being trustworthy as being dependent on integrity, intent, skills, and results.

We’d ascribe all these traits to trustworthy people. Clearly, it makes sense that we should only trust people who exhibit these characteristics. Right?

If we find ourselves creating a litmus test for trustworthiness, there is an implicit assumption that people aren’t to be trusted. We wait to see if people exhibit these characteristics before we decide if they should be trusted. Until they meet our standard, we assume people are bad.

What if we assume all people are good?

Rather than starting without trust and requiring trustworthiness to be proven, what if we started with trust?

If we’re going to begin by trusting people we don’t know, there is a subtle effect. We’ll start by finding the things about others that reinforce our ability to trust them, rather than finding reasons not to (we’ll talk about this later).

We could go one step further and make sure people know that we trust them. The effects of doing this would surprise you.

How might we prove to strangers that we trust them (assuming we’d even want to)?

One example of demonstrating unqualified trust in strangers is the CEO of Quicken Loans, Bill Emerson. During new employee orientation, he gives his actual cell phone number to everyone in attendance and encourages them to use it.

Maybe you shouldn’t give your cellular number to 10,000 strangers, but I’m sure you could find a way to express to others that you trust and value them. Not because they have proven anything to you, but because you know they are human and humans are fundamentally good.

Most people are uncomfortable or take issue with this. We’ve spent our lives being warned of stranger danger, see terrible things in the news, and would rather stare at our phone for an hour than strike up a conversation in a waiting room. However, the way we experience people is not the truth of who they are.


Who don’t you trust?

Why don’t you trust them?

Is there another explanation for those actions that may cause you to question whether that person deserves trust?

Do you start by trusting people you meet, or do you expect them to prove themselves to you?


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